May 5: Liberation of the Netherlands – a local connection

Today, May 5th, Canada is fondly remembered by the Dutch for ending their oppression under the Nazis, and Liberation Day is a public holiday in the Netherlands to mark the end of the Nazi occupation of the country during the Second World War.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “… in the final months of the Second World War, Canadian forces were given the important and deadly task of liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. From September 1944 to April 1945, the First Canadian Army fought German forces on the Scheldt estuary — opening the port of Antwerp for Allied use — and then cleared northern and western Netherlands of Germans, allowing food and other relief to reach millions of desperate people. More than 7,600 Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen died fighting in the Netherlands.”

In appreciation, the government of the Netherlands issued a certificate of appreciation and medal to the Canadian troops.

Kenneth Douglas Lein (RCEME) – for larger view, click on image

Retired Saugeen Shores Police constable, Doug Lein, maintains his father’s and uncle’s war memorabilia.  Lein’s father, Kenneth Douglas Lein, was a member of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, today known as the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME), who maintain army engineering support.

Lein Sr.’s badge and identification bracelet – for larger view, click on image

When Lein learned that his father was part of the Netherlands Liberation, he contacted the Canadian government in Ottawa, who then put him in touch via telephone with the government of the Netherlands.


The Dutch representative that Lein talked to suggested that he write a letter to the government, which he did.

Canadians are still fondly remembered by the Dutch today as both liberators and saviours who rescued millions from sickness and starvation in 1945. The joyous “Canadian summer” that followed forged deep and long-lasting bonds of friendship between the two countries.  One of those friendships was between Lein’s father and the Dutch family who billeted him during the war.

In his letter, Lein explained his father’s part in the Liberation and how he had been billeted by a Dutch family.  “My mother and father retained the relationship with the family after the war and they even came to Canada to visit.”

For larger view, click on image

Lein didn’t know what, if any, the outcome of his letter would be, but much to his surprise, one day a package arrived in the mail.  Inside, was a letter from the Netherlands, the certificate of appreciation and the medal that was issued to Canadians.

“I couldn’t believe that they would send a medal.  I thought they would write back saying that all the medals had been issued, so I was thrilled when I opened the package and there it was, along with the certificate and a wonderful letter from the Netherlands government.”


For larger view, click on image

Lein has now added the Liberation of Netherlands items to his collection honouring his father and his role in World War II.

Every year since the war, the Netherlands has sent thousands of tulips to Ottawa, in appreciation for Canada’s sacrifice and for providing safe harbour to the Dutch royal family, who lived in exile in Canada during the war – a lasting gift knowns as the “Tulip Legacy”.

The Canadian Tulip Festival, held annually each May in Ottawa, has evolved into the world’s largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips, with attendance of over 650,000 visitors annually (source: Ottawa Tourism).